Deborah Acason - Contributor
The strength behind my strength
I’ve always thought that life is so much easier being strong, especially when you have to move things.
We just bought a house before the Commonwealth Games and we are trying to sell our current place. We were moving some of our furniture and I literally just picked up a couch by myself and put it in the trailer. I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I would hate to be someone that can’t move a couch on their own’, because it is really handy!
When my husband came back from work every day, I was like ‘I’ve like moved cupboards and couches and motorbikes and all that sort of stuff’. It might sound a bit silly, but strength is useful with kids too. I can hold a 15 kg child for a really long time.
But there’s another kind of strength I’ve gained from children.
Having kids has helped me grow both as an athlete and a person. When you’re an athlete you have the blinkers on to some extent, the focus is just on training and comp. When you become a coach, you have to widen those blinkers a bit as there’s more to focus on. When I got married, I had to start thinking about my husband as well. But when you become a parent, it just opens up your eyes so much with so much more to look after.
Being a parent has just made me feel so different as a coach, as a director of the Australian Weightlifting Federation, as an athlete and as a person.
I have such an appreciation for what my mum did for me, and what all mums and dads do for their kids. I now understand what my parents did for me, particularly my Mum. My Dad stopped his PhD in mining engineering and my Mum could have been quite a famous opera singer. She had one of the top 10 voices in the world, but she gave that up once she had us five kids.
But when I was coming through and starting to become a good athlete, Mum and Dad encouraged me to keep working hard at training and didn’t want me to stop even though there were five of us kids making life very busy for them. I’m really grateful for what my parents gave up to make it possible for me to keep training and competing.
And here I am, with two Olympics behind me and about to compete at my fifth Commonwealth Games.
FAMILIAR FACES IN THE CROWD
I won medals at three of my previous four Comm Games. I won three silver medals at Manchester, gold in Melbourne, bronze in Delhi and then finished fourth in Glasgow by 1kg.
l guess that might look like my career is on a downward trajectory, but I’ve got high hopes for the Gold Coast in the over 90 kilo category because I’ve got the advantage of home soil. I will also have the advantage of my husband and my two girls screaming their heads off.
I would hate to be someone that can’t move a couch on their own.
I’m almost 35 now, which technically means I’ll be a Master in a couple of months. I’ve been doing this for so long, but pretty much my whole family is going to be watching for the very first time in my weightlifting career in 20 years. I’m just so excited about that.
We weightlifters eat a lot, and it’s been really fun here in the village with the free 24/7 food. Just for fun, I’ll talk you through the dining hall experiences at my five Commonwealth Games.
Manchester was like a five out of 10 because I was only 18 and I didn’t really appreciate it as much as what I do now.
Melbourne was absolutely next level. I had to diet a lot beforehand, moving down a weight class, so I was really hungry and I will always remember the first thing that I ate after my competition was this massive brie cheese with cold meat sandwich. I can actually remember biting into it. So that was like a 10 out of 10.
Delhi, to be honest, I pretty much ate lamb and chicken the entire time I was there because we had a casual dining hall very close to where the weightlifters were staying and we didn’t want to walk too far. The curries were next level. That was also a 10 out of 10.
Glasgow was pretty good, actually. The casual dining BBQ was amazing. It had a lot of fresh and smoked salmon and BBQ steaks and everything. I love my meat, so that was like a nine-and-a-half out of 10.
Obviously I can’t give you the full assessment on the Gold Coast just yet, but I have eaten a lot of Indian, and the Singapore noodles is a 10 out of 10.
Overall, my memories of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games as a home Games are that it was such a step above Manchester. People I didn’t even know had written my name on placards when I was competing, and it gave me that little bit extra when I really needed it.
So, the fact I will be able to look out into the crowd and know that my four siblings (and their families), my parents, both my daughters and my husband and a lot of my friends are turning up to a major competition, it’s just going to be amazing. It will be a sellout and it makes me tingle thinking about it.
We weightlifters eat a lot, and it’s been really fun here with the free 24/7 food.
As a weightlifter, you try to use the energy of crowd before your lift. In some ways, I try to visualise what the crowd’s going to be like when I’ve got the bar over my head.
When they say your name, obviously everyone screams their heads off and pumps you up. Then there’s a moment where you’ve got to compose yourself and go through what you’ve done a million times.
A lift is over in about one second. You have to be a hundred per cent committed to that weight and, if there’s any doubt at all in your mind, then you’re going to miss it. So I come out and often just visualise the bar over my head. And when I think about the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, I can see myself screaming in front of my family.
We lifted in this stadium in September last year and I lifted better than I thought I would, and it’s literally because I saw my family there and I was wanting to show them what I can do.
Once the bar is above your head and you know you’ve got it, you just feel rock solid. It’s a feeling of relief, and you’re just ecstatic that you’ve got that lift that you set out to do. It’s the most powerful feeling.
SAINTS, DEVILS AND A LITTLE LIFE ADVICE
My husband and I are Christians and both go to church. We went to a little town in western Queensland called Miles, and were there from 2013-2015 and started a club out there. We called it the Saints weightlifting club; the local football team was called the Devils, so I thought we should be called the Saints as the club started on the slab of concrete at the back of the church that we lived next door to, as my husband was the Pastor of St Andrews Presbyterian Church.
The club is still going really strong. The head coach Sonia is down here on the Gold Coast volunteering at the Games right now, and she’s got a lot of young kids doing the sport, which is great. They’re doing really well and they always get medals at the state championships and a couple at nationals and internationals as well.
I was always taught to do my best and to believe that God has given us this amazing country to live in, and we’re so well off and we should be thankful for everything we’ve got.
At school talks I always tell kids that firstly you’ve got to do your best, and also you’ve got to respect your school teachers. A lot of people ask me to talk about ‘following your dream’, but I think you can’t only just do what you love. Sometimes you have to do the really hard stuff first. You have to work hard and sometimes that’s painful, but then that gets you to the things that you love.
Training is not always fun. Sometimes it’s really, really hard and tiring and hurts, but you have to get through that stuff to get to the end product, which for me is getting to a big competition and doing the sport that I love.
Away from sport and family, I’ve actually completed a law and criminology degree and so I’ve been admitted as a legal professional and one day may work as a lawyer.
When I was finishing off the criminology studies, we did this study on how a particular environment can be conducive to criminal activity. I had to look at a facility and actually say, ‘This should be changed because it would create shadows, and we need lighting here, and that sort of thing.’ Only a few weeks later, I found out that building was actually broken into and money was stolen.
I worked for Crown Law in Brisbane for a year and a half and so would like to work as a lawyer in some capacity one day, although I do feel as though I have a lot to give back in my sport, so perhaps I might find work in the future using my 20 years of sporting experience. I have always been really intrigued by police and army but we will have to see.
You can’t only do what you love. Sometimes you have to do the really hard stuff first.
Meanwhile, I’ll continue with my career after the Commonwealth Games. There’s still a chance of a world championship a bit later in the year, but I feel towards the end of the year or next year, I’ll be pretty ready to let my daughters take over the sporting role in our lives.
I’m ready to be the person who drives them to things and cheers from the sidelines. Perhaps even coach them one day!
I know what my parents did for me, and I now am ready to sort of step over. As a national director in the sport, I’d like to continue helping develop the sport, doing a bit of talent identification, trying to get more people into the sport, refereeing wherever I can and maybe coaching too.
But I’m definitely ready to sit on the sidelines just watching my daughters.
Deborah Acason - Contributor